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Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant 249

New submitter CarlThansk (3713681) writes The courts have long debated on if cell phones can be searched during an arrest without a warrant. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected (PDF) from routine inspection." Phones may still be searched under limited circumstances (imminent threats), but this looks like a clear win for privacy. Quoting the decision: "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. Cell phones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals. Privacy comes at a cost."
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Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant

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  • by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:34PM (#47316717)
    according to the ruling, which I have read most of, you would have to prove the data on the phone would be an imminent threat, which is impossible to do. They state in the opinion that you can search a phone for psychical threats such as a bomb or a blade hidden in the case, but data on a phone is not an imminent threat, it is just data.
  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:59PM (#47316995)

    Yup, he/she is, and no, it won't apply, since screening at the border is a different animal.

  • Re:Not in USA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ziggitz ( 2637281 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:00PM (#47317011)
    From the looks of it it seems that this ruling only applies to the data stored on phones, not information passing over the network. This doesn't apply to the mass surveillance of communications and it doesn't mean that the FISA courts aren't going to blanket approve every single warrant like they have been for the past several years. All this really means is the police can't search your phone when they arrest you or during a stop to gather evidence against without first getting a warrant. While this is definitely a step in the right direction it isn't nearly as wide reaching as you would think.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:36PM (#47317379) Homepage

    Hopefully, everybody. Make the information public. Livestream it to the interwebs. Have citizen groups review it. Make review of the content mandatory if there is any dispute. If the police 'accidentally' turned them off or made sure they could't see anything .. throw out the case.

    Do anything which opens the process and prevents abuse.

    The cops will complain about their privacy and their rights, but using that to ignore ours is not what I'd call a good excuse.

    Trusting them blindly clearly isn't working. So you structure the system so it says, "we don't actually trust you, and we don't trust the people who are supposed to be overseeing you".

    By the people, for the people. Not whatever the hell we decide we want to do.

    How many times have police officers need to be told they have no legal right to confiscate your phone, or force you to delete pictures from it? They obviously don't know or care what the law says. So, we obviously can't trust them.

  • Re:Imminent Threat (Score:5, Informative)

    by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @03:45PM (#47317997)

    The ruling actually spells it out "imminent threat" as a physical threat.

    Digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee’s escape. Law enforcement officers remain free to examine the physical aspects of a phone to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon—say, to determine whether there is a razor blade hidden between the phone and its case. Once an officer has secured a phone and eliminated any potential physical threats, however, data on the phone can endanger no one.

  • Re:Well unless... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:52PM (#47321535)

    So anything within 100 miles of an international airport...

    or an international border?!?

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"